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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Malawi

Malawi - Consular Information Sheet
October 11, 2000

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Malawi is a developing African nation. Tourist facilities are limited. Aging infrastructure and lack of investment have rendered electricity, water supply, and telecommunications unreliable. Credit cards are not commonly accepted. While strict dress codes are no longer in effect, travelers may wish to dress modestly, especially when visiting remote areas.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport, return ticket, and adequate funds are required. A 30-day visa, which can be extended up to an additional 60 days, is issued at point of entry. There is an airport departure tax (payable only in U.S. dollars) for all non-Malawians. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of Malawi, 2408 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 797-1007. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Malawian Embassy or Consulate.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Spontaneous civil disturbances, primarily related to labor and student strikes, occur but are uncommon. U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.

CRIME INFORMATION: Even though Malawi is known as "the warm heart of Africa," both residents and visitors need to bear in mind that there is a criminal element present. Carjackings and residential break-ins are two crimes prevalent throughout Malawi. Perpetrators of these crimes are usually well-armed and may resort to violence with little provocation. Petty street crime (robbery and pickpocketing) is less common, but cases have been reported. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are basic at best. Some medicines are in short supply or locally unobtainable. Travelers should be aware that contrary to the frequent claims of the local tourist industry, Lake Malawi does contain the parasite schistosomiasis, aka bilharzia. Malaria is endemic throughout Malawi. HIV/AIDS is also prevalent.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate cash payment for health care services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions which differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Malawi is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: poor

Malawi's roads are in poor repair. Secondary roads may be impassable to all but four-wheel-drive vehicles during the rainy season (November-April). Given Malawi's high road accident rate, travelers should drive defensively and avoid road travel outside cities at night. Road support networks for stranded drivers do not exist.

Land routes through Mozambique to the Indian Ocean and Zimbabwe, including the Tete Corridor, can be dangerous. Incidents of carjacking and other violent crimes, including murder, have occurred. Four-wheel-drive utility vehicles are targeted at a higher rate than other types of vehicles. Travelers should plan their trip to ensure they travel only during daylight hours. Travelers are encouraged to convoy with other vehicles if possible. Persons traveling overland to Malawi should contact the U.S. Embassy consular sections in both Malawi and the proposed countries of transit to ensure that they have the most current information.

For specific information concerning Malawi driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Embassy of Malawi in Washington, D.C. on 202-797-1007. For international driving permits contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance.

For additional information about road safety, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Malawi, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Malawi's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA'a Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 1-618-229-4801.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Malawi's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Malawi are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Malawi are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Malawi and obtain updated information on travel and security within Malawi. The U.S. Embassy is located in Area 40, City Center, Lilongwe; telephone numbers are (265) 773-166, 773-342 and 773-367; fax (265) 770-471. The Embassy's mailing address is P.O. Box 30016, Lilongwe, Malawi.

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